The Enforcement Directorate has summoned Tony Fernandes, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Group Bhd, for questioning in connection with a money laundering case. The summons is dated January 20, 2020. ED had registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, in 2018 against the airline and its officials. The summons has been extended to the CEO and a few others who are going to be deposed for questioning in the following days.
The airline allegedly tried to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get international license for its Indian venture Air Asia India Ltd. The investigations into AirAsia were initiated on the basis of the claims of ousted Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry’s allegation of a fraudulent transaction of INR 22 crore which involved non-existent entities in India and Singapore.
The alleged conspiracy to get the 5/20 rule amended started during the 2009-2014 tenure of the UPA government. The rule requires a five year operation time to get the permit from FIPB which was relaxed in June 2016. The airline submitted applications to the FIPB in February 2013 and received formal approval in April 2013, despite irregularities in its application.
According to CBI’s FIR, “the shareholders and Indian partners at the joint venture, including the board members, were not only aware of these intentions but also consciously violated the then FIPB norms.”
AirAsia had denied the accusations after it was booked by the agencies in 2018 and had said “AirAsia India Ltd (AAIL) refutes any wrongdoing and is cooperating with all regulators and agencies to present the correct facts”.
The CBI and ED had booked Fernandes, AirAsia's former Deputy Group CEO Bo Lingam and AirAsia India's Director R Venkataramanan, besides Air Asia India Pvt. Ltd and Air Asia Berhad.
Author: Nandini Gandhi